This roast chicken dish was concocted by Joe Roberts' wife, a talented amateur chef, after she had read “about 700 cookbooks." It has become a go-to, welcome-home meal for Joe when he gets back from overseas travel.
The twist of the dish is the stuffing, which ends up on the outside of the chicken: “There’s a baguette underneath the chicken that absorbs everything that comes off the chicken," explains Roberts. "So we end up fighting over the final pieces of what’s left of this mushy baguette at the bottom.”
The dish is versatile, and there are two versions, depending on how much time you have: “The only difference is the time you cook the chicken. So in one, the meal is ready in a reasonable amount of time, and in the other, you can roast that chicken for hours.”
Roberts claims that if you take this second avenue, the chicken becomes so fully flavored that you can pair it with pretty much any wine, from Barbaresco to white Burgundy.
His favorite match? “Cru Beaujolais or a cooler-climate syrah – anything with a tiny bit of pepper, a little bit of earth that has that vibrant acidity. I love those wines with this dish.”
1 whole chicken (organic preferred)
1 large chunk of baguette or other hearty, crusty bread
1 tbsp butter, softened to room temperature
2 garlic cloves minced
2 tsp chopped fresh herbs (tarragon, thyme or rosemary)
Dry white wine
Mixed vegetables, such as beets, carrots, potatoes, onion, etc.
Preheat the oven to 450° F (230° C).
Lightly grease a high-sided roasting pan or large pot (Roberts uses a large Le Creuset pot).
Split the baguette in half lengthways and place crust side down in the greased pot. In a small bowl, mash the butter, minced garlic and herbs together.
Using a table knife, carefully separate the chicken breast skin from the meat and smoosh the herb mixture under the skin. Run any leftover mixture over the top.
Put the chicken in the pot on top of the baguette, breast side up.
Cut the lemon in half and squeeze both halves over the top of the chicken, then put them into the cavity of the bird.
Truss the chicken for more even cooking (not mandatory). Liberally sprinkle the top of the chicken with salt. This will make it super brown and crusty.
Pour the white wine into the pot – about 3/4 to 1 cup. You can also use broth or water, but as Roberts points out, who is really going to do that?
Put the pot into the oven and set the timer for 45 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare your vegetables by peeling and cutting them into similarly sized pieces. Put them into a bowl and lightly coat with olive oil.
When the timer goes, off dump your veggies into the pot, surrounding the chicken. If you have extra you can put them in a separate roasting pan and place them beside the pot to cook. Reset your timer for 45 more minutes.
When the timer goes off again, check your chicken to be sure it is cooked through. You can do this by piercing the skin with a fork: the juice should run clear. If it doesn’t, continue to cook for five-minute intervals until the juice does run clear.
Carefully take the chicken out of the oven and let it rest in the pot for about 10 minutes.
Take the chicken out of the pot and place it on a cutting board to carve. Put the vegetables into a bowl. Scrape the baguette off the bottom of the pot. It is O.K. if you want to stand at the counter and eat this, not sharing it with anyone else, says Roberts. After all, you were the one doing all the hard work.